Friday, February 19, 2016

Day of Remembrance: February 19, 2016, the 74th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

LIFE BEFORE 1942: A collage of moments in Wintersburg Village and Huntington Beach, (top left) the Furuta family outside their bungalow on Wintersburg Road, circa 1926; (top right) Raymond Furuta breaking track records at Huntington Beach High School, 1932; (center left) Yukiko Yajima Furuta in her new home in Wintersburg Village, 1913; (center right) Yukiko Yajima Furuta and Masuko Yajima Akiyama, sisters, at the Cole Ranch in Wintersburg Village, circa 1914; (bottom left) at the beach, circa 1930s; (right) in a new-fangled automobile outside the Wintersburg Mission, circa 1913-1915. (Photographs courtesy of the Furuta family). © All rights reserved.

    February 19 is the annual Day of Remembrance of the authorization of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, which mandated the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast.  Each person was assigned an identification number and provided a tag, which followed them through detention centers to confinement centers across the country.  Allowed one piece of luggage per person, the loss of home, property, personal mementos and essential civil liberties was a profound moment in American history.

   The majority were American citizens. Most, like Charles Furuta, had been in America for four decades.  He had returned once to Japan in 1912 to meet and marry his wife, Yukiko.  They had returned to build their life in Wintersburg Village, raising their children and supporting the community with volunteer work at the Wintersburg Mission and Japanese Association.  They had contributed to the rebuilding of the Huntington Beach pier after it was destroyed by a storm in 1912.  They had watched the flight of aviator Koha Takeishi from Dominguez field in Los Angeles to a farm pasture in Wintersburg in 1913.  

   The Furuta farm had become a lush garden, with goldfish ponds and flowers.  The Wintersburg Mission had expanded, with a new Church building in 1934 during the Great Depression.  The congregation of the Mission had grown, with many coming to attend services and activities from around Orange County.  The Wintersburg Mission supported four Language Schools by 1942, in Garden Grove, Talbert (Fountain Valley), Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach.

 Left: At the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, luggage representing the one bag per person allowed into confinement. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   By February 19, 1942, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, it had become clear that life would change.  Families sold farm equipment for pennies on the dollar. Neighbors were asked to watch over the rare Japanese-owned properties, like the Furuta and Masuda farms in Orange County.  The Furuta and Akiyama families packed their personal belongings and stored them with Henry Akiyama's employees at the Pacific Gold Fish Farm in Westminster.

   And, then they waited. In Orange County, Japanese Americans were asked to voluntarily present themselves at various departure points on specific dates to meet the buses that would take them to confinement.  

   In Huntington Beach, the ladies from the Baptist church brought coffee and donuts, trying to offer some comfort at the Pacific Electric Railway station near the pier, one of the departure points.  Friends made lunch for the Furuta family at their house and then accompanied them to the Language School in Garden Grove where they met their bus to the Colorado River Relocation Center (Poston), Arizona.  Charles Furuta had already been taken by the FBI, first to the Huntington Beach jail, then to the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, and then to Lordsburg, New Mexico.

   By May 1942, Orange County's Japanese American population was gone.  The trip from Huntington Beach to Arizona would have been a full day of travel, arriving to an unfinished confinement camp, unfurnished barracks, in the bleak desert for an unknown amount of time.  

   In Poston, it was over 100-degrees.  The wind was blowing sand across the freshly graded desert and into the barracks, which had been quickly constructed with green lumber.  There was no insulation and daylight streamed through the black, tar paper wallsThe first thing to do upon arrival: fill an empty mattress with straw and carry it back to the assigned barrack, a place to lay down. Exhausted. Uncertain of the future. And, putting on a positive face for the children.

FEBRUARY 20, 2016: Historic Wintersburg will join sister organizations, survivors of confinement, descendants of those confined in World War II, for the Day of Remembrance at the Japanese American National Museum.  More information at 

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

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The Historic Wintersburg blog focuses on an overlooked history in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, in the interest of saving a historic property from demolition. The author and publisher reserves the right not to publish comments. Please no promotional or political commentary. Zero tolerance for hate rhetoric. Comments with embedded commercial / advertising links or promoting other projects, books, or publications may not be published. If you have an interesting anecdote, question or comment about one of our features, it will be published.